Can eggs be a part of a healthy diet? Experts say yes
Are brown eggs healthier than white eggs? Are raw eggs safe to consume? This National Egg Day, we're answering some common questions about egg health and busting myths, too.
National Egg Day, recognized on June 3, reportedly traces back to the 1920s when a new highway was built to transport poultry and eggs in the town of Winlock, Washington. In 1918, California launched a “National Egg Day” to be held in August. The date was later shifted to June 3. Today, some companies recognize the day as an opportunity to launch deals.
Before you say "sunny side up," here's what experts told us about the benefits, dangers, myths and dietary recommendations of eggs.
Potential benefits of eating eggs
Eggs are nutrient-dense food, meaning they provide a lot of nutrition per calorie. Some of these well-known nutrients are iron, phosphorus, potassium, and iodine. According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s FoodData Central, one large egg is about 72 calories and contains 6 grams of protein.
Eggs also contain a lesser-known nutrient called choline, which is essential for proper function of the brain and nervous system, especially for brain development of babies and infants.
According to a 2017 peer-reviewed study published in the journal Nutrients, the researchers looked at the intakes of choline from foods according to data for participants enrolled in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2009–2014 datasets and pregnant women in the 2005–2014 datasets. They concluded that “it is extremely difficult to achieve the AL (adequate level) for choline without consuming eggs or taking a dietary supplement.”
Eggs contain a variety of vitamins, including vitamin A, vitamin D, and vitamin E. Andrew Odegaard, associate professor at the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, Irvine, said there are a number of other factors to take into consideration when looking at the potential benefits of eggs, including where you are in the world and how they are produced.
“They can be a good source of basic nutrients,” Odegaard said.
Dangers of eating eggs
Odegaard said the potential dangers of eating eggs depends on a person's overall diet.
Eating eggs on top of "a typical American diet" full of "ultra-processed foods and added sugars and a high level of red and processed meats" and fine grains isn't healthy, Odegaard said.
This kind of diet, which is filled with protein, can have side effects. According to a 2014 research study published in Cell Metabolism, researchers found that high-protein intake is linked to increased risk of cancer, diabetes and overall mortality for people under age 65. They also found that plant-derived proteins are linked with lower mortality than animal-derived proteins.
Experts have found that moderate egg consumption, which would be one egg per day, is not associated with cardiovascular disease risk overall, and is associated with lower cardiovascular disease risk among Asian populations.
Many people have feared that eating too many eggs, such as nine or 10 per day or per week, can increase cholesterol levels which in turn will lead to an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. While there hasn’t been clear research to back up this claim, experts at the Mayo Clinic say there are factors to take into consideration, such as the diet.
The experts suggest keeping dietary cholesterol intake under 300 milligrams per day. One large egg has about 186 mg of cholesterol, all of which can be found in the yolk, according to Mayo Clinic.
Anyone with medical conditions or dietary concerns should also talk with a doctor about what's best for them.
“For example, an adult with kidney disease might be instructed by their doctor to limit their protein intake, which would mean they would need to be mindful of all protein foods, with eggs being one of the many sources,” Colleen Sidedeck, a registered dietician and technical information specialist for nutrition.gov at the USDA’s National Agricultural Library, said.
Egg facts and myths
Brown eggs aren't healthier than while eggs.
There is no nutritional difference between brown eggs or white eggs, or eggs of any color. However, Sidedeck said there can be differences in the vitamin and mineral content of eggs depending on what the hen eats.
“For example, some eggs can contain more or less vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids than others,” Sidedeck said.
Research from Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences shows that compared to the eggs of commercial hens, eggs from pastured hens eggs had twice as much vitamin E, vitamin A and omega 3-fatty acids.
Raw eggs are or aren't good for you?
The United States Department of Agriculture says that bacteria can be on the outside of the shell, and it is possible for eggs to become infected by salmonella enteritidis fecal contamination through the pores of the shells after the eggs have been laid. Everyone is advised against eating raw or uncooked eggs.
Is the egg float test real?
Yes. The egg float test has been used by people for decades to test the freshness of an egg. This test involves filling a cup with cold water, dropping the egg into the water, and checking to see whether the egg comes out submerged or floating. If it is submerged, the egg is fresh, and if it is floating, the egg is not fresh.
According to The Happy Chicken Coop, a publication for chicken keepers, the test is quite accurate. There is a tiny air cell in the fresh egg, so it does not have much buoyancy. The older the egg becomes, the larger the air cell gets, which makes it more likely to float.
Are older eggs easier to peel if you hard-boil them?
Yes. According to Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking, the egg white in a fresh egg has a relatively low pH level, and when boiled in water, the egg whites bond more strongly to the inner shell membrane than to itself. When an egg sits in refrigeration, however, the pH level of the egg white increases and hard-boiled eggs become much easier to peel.
How to incorporate eggs into a healthy diet
Eggs can fit into a healthy diet as a protein food. Protein foods make up one-fourth of a healthy plate and can be paired with fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy foods to get all the vitamins and minerals that the body needs, according to Sidedeck.
“Due to their soft texture, eggs can also be a good option for young children and people who have difficulty chewing,” Sidedeck said.
Eggs should be balanced with other protein sources, such as lean meats or poultry, as part of an overall eating pattern that encourages vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Margaret Slavin, a professor of nutrition at George Mason University, says this diet should aim to minimize intake of added sugars, solid fats, sodium and heavily processed foods.